Hotel Manager Awarded €28,500

A Dublin hotel group has been ordered to pay a hotel manager €28,500 for unfair dismissal. Adam Brien said at hearing that the way he was made redundant "destroyed his faith" in the hospitality trade - and that he will not go back to it.

His complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act against Persian Properties Unlimited, trading as the O'Callaghan Collection, was upheld by the Workplace Relations Commission. He claimed the firm did not apply fair procedures in making him redundant as food and beverage manager at the Davenport Hotel on 7 August 2020. The firm denied unfair dismissal and argued the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic meant there was simply no job available for him.

The company's chief executive, Paul O'Callaghan, argued that the group cut its workforce by two thirds when restrictions were imposed on the hospitality sector on public health grounds in March 2020. It was the company's position that it put around 180 staff on temporary layoff and kept 76 others on part-time hours, including Mr Brien.

Persian Properties operates four hotels in Dublin under the O'Callaghan brand: The Davenport on Lincoln Place, The Alexander on Fenian Street, The Mont on Lower Merrion Street and The Green on Cuffe Street. Of the four, only The Alexander was reopened in August 2020, with occupancy running at about 5% compared with the 80% it would expect for the season.

Mr O'Callaghan submitted that the group was spending €350,000 a month - €181,000 of it on pay - even though its revenues were down 85-90%. He said the hotel group was "making up work" for those still on the roster.

In her decision, adjudicating officer Catherine Byrne wrote that the requirement for a "skeleton crew" at the hotel group was "bound to be temporary" and that a temporary cessation of business was provided for in legislation. She wrote that Mr Brien's career in the hotel group "would have been maintained" by placing him on layoff.

"This was precisely the objective of the Government schemes such as the EWSS and the PUP - their purpose was to maintain the connection between employers and employees during the pandemic, and to avoid job losses," she said.

She wrote that the company had "battened down the hatches" when lockdown came with "no idea" they would be closed for 19 months. But she noted that there was no evidence the managers "contemplated closing down or selling any of their properties or changing their use".

"They set their sights on riding out the storm until they could open again. In such a scenario, it is obvious that the job of the complainant, and other jobs that were laid off or made redundant, were going to be needed when the business opened up again," Ms Byrne added.

Ms Byrne ruled Mr Brien's dismissal unfair and ordered the company to pay him €28,500 in compensation for loss of earnings.